Rafael Nadal hails Serena Williams as one of the ‘greatest’ athletes ever

Serena Williams

Rafael Nadal has hailed fellow tennis star Serena Williams as one of the greatest athletes of all time. 

Williams announced her imminent retirement from the game in a Vogue article last week and is expected to put her racquet down for good after this year’s US Open. 

The 40-year-old has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles and is the highest-earning female tennis player of all time. 

Yet, the former world number one stressed that she wasn’t looking for a big send-off in New York, despite her glittering career. 

“I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment,” she said. “I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words. You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you.”

Serena Williams

What did Nadal say? 

Nadal has not competed since withdrawing from his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios last month but is set to take part in the Western & Southern Open this week. 

Speaking ahead of the tournament, the Spaniard addressed Williams’ retirement and reflected on the “memories” he’s shared with the American. 

“She is one of the greatest sports [people] of all time,” he emphasised. “I feel lucky to [have] shared the Tour for a long period of time with her. 

“Of course, from a selfish point of view it’s sad that she’s leaving the Tour but, on the other hand, we can’t thank her enough for all the things that she’s done for our sport.”

“I think she’s an amazing inspiration for a lot of people around the world and I think she deserves to choose whatever works for her better at this stage of her life. So I wish her all the best.”

Rafael Nadal

Nadal also addressed his own return to tennis following his abdominal injury at the All England Club and confirmed that his recovery is going well. 

“Of course, I had a small tear in the [abdomen] so it’s dangerous. The abdominal is the place that is dangerous because in every serve you put a lot of effort there, so I need to take things a little bit easier.

“That’s what I’m trying to do. [I’m] try[ing] to be a little more conservative but I hope I can be ready to play.”

Williams to face Raducanu

Like Nadal, Williams is also in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open and faces a blockbuster first-round match against US Open champion Emma Raducanu

The Brit, who has never faced Williams before, is desperate to find form ahead of her title defence in New York, having lost in the first round of the Canadian Open last week.

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